Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Dear Samuel,

Hope you had a good long weekend. I know I did. Now all I need to do is get a job with the federal government so I can get even more holidays off from work, as well as a sweet defined benefit pension plan.

In a previous post I mentioned that you should strive to get your Eagle Scout badge sooner than later. It is definitely a good idea to get this out of the way before you get your drivers license.

I don’t know if I ever told this to you, but here’s a true story. Grandma and Grandpa had a celebration / get together for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. All the cousins got together, the Aunts, and Uncles and everyone was gathered together in a church gymnasium. Grandpa was making the rounds, came up to Shawn and Me, put his hands on our shoulders, asked us how we were doing, and told us he wanted us to get our Eagle Scout badge. Grandpa had been heavily involved in Boy Scouts for years, and had even won the Silver Beaver award. I don’t know what the Silver Beaver award is, but it must have been important because scout guys talk about it like it’s a big deal. Anyway we had the fiftieth anniversary banquet, and in the middle of a slide show showing pictures of the family going way, way back Grandpa had a heart attack, went to the hospital and died; so technically Grandpa’s dying wish for me was for me to get the Eagle Scout award. I was one of those Eagle Scout recipients who earned the Eagle badge a matter of days before my 18th birthday. I speak from experience that it is a big hassle earning your Eagle Scout badge after age 16. I had to make it a priority, which was why I decided my Senior year not to run track, and instead focus my extra time on earning the final 3 some odd merit badges. My track coach was extremely upset with me, and even called Mom on the phone to get her to talk me out of it.

The key to a good Eagle project is organizing people. The Eagle board of review wants you to come up with some sort of project that will do some good in the world, organize people to do it, and execute the project. That’s what they want you to do.

What is sets an Eagle Scout apart from other teenagers? I think it comes down to initiative and diligence. Two things most teenagers have in common is they have no initiative, and they don’t have any follow through. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this common trait of teenagers but eventually you all will need to grow out of it. Getting your Eagle Scout sets you apart from the riff-raff. It means you’ve set your sights on a goal (the Eagle Scout award) and you followed through the required multi-step process of getting multiple merit badges, and you’ve organized yourself and others to bring about real change in the real world with your Eagle project. So as mundane as getting your Eagle Scout award may seem to you right now, let me assure you that it does mean something from an adult perspective and how you are perceived as a teenager.

I haven’t really talked to you about what merit badges you have left before you’re finished with your Eagle Scout. That’s a conversation for another day. This post is intended to suggest a couple of possible Eagle project ideas. Take them or leave them.

Organize a Red Cross Blood Drive

This is an Eagle Project I’ve seen done that I have mixed feelings about. All you have to do is find some group of adults who can donate blood, and organize the adults and the Red Cross to get together somewhere so the adults can donate blood. This is an example of a very easy Eagle project. You basically just have to contact the Red Cross, obtain a building for the blood drive – like a church building, or a school, or some other location. Then you just ask a group of adults (it could be adults in your neighborhood) to come and donate blood. The Red Cross will do most of the work. You mainly need to organize the details.

The Eagle board of review will want to know how many man hours went into organizing this project. You’ll need to keep track of all the hours you spend organizing it, as well as the time spent by your volunteers. Then you need to write a summary of your project, put it all into a binder and submit it for review. At that point they’ll call you in and you’ll be interviewed by some high level Scout guys. They’ll either tell you that you did a good enough job, or they’ll ask you to go back and do something else (usually they’ll have you change something in the binder you submitted). And bada bing. You’ve earned yourself an Eagle. I like this idea because the Red Cross does most of the logistical work. There’s nothing wrong with easy. What I don’t like about this idea is it somehow seems like a cop-out to me. Like you you’re outsourcing the project to the Red Cross.

Organize a Hunger Banquet

This is my favorite idea for an Eagle project that I’ve run across. What you do is you organize a banquet that raises money for some humanitarian project. My personal opinion is that any money raised should go to Unitus. But money raised could go to a local food bank, or to the Red Cross, or the United Way, or whatever. You secure a venue (a church, school, somebody’s backyard, or some other place to have the banquet). You come up with some educational material for a presentation at the banquet. You put together some sort of flyer to advertise for the event. Make sure the flyer includes the fact that this is your Eagle Scout project. Get volunteers to sell tickets, and get publicity. Invite whoever will be judging you at the Eagle board of review. You sell tickets for ~$10. When people show up to the banquet they receive a random number. Most of the guests will sit on blankets and eat beans and rice. A very few people will get a McDonalds extra value meal, and one percent of the guests will eat something like outback steakhouse take out, or chili’s or something. The idea is that we Americans are amazingly well off compared to most of the rest of the world.

While everyone is eating you give a presentation (make sure to keep track of the hours you spent practicing for this presentation, and putting it together) on microcredit, or the benefits of the local food bank or whatever. Then invite the attendees to donate money at a website. Here is a cool tool I found to make it easy for people to donate. Then you make sure the money gets into the organization you were raising money for. Write up your report, put it in a binder, go to the Eagle Review, and you’re done.

Public Works

You might try checking with a local city official to see if there are any planned projects at local parks. There usually is something planned. Sometimes it is possible to co-opt one of these public improvement projects as your Eagle project. How it works is the city will supply the building materials for the park benches, or the park gazebo or whatever, and you organize the expertise, and the labor to put it together. You organize the labor, execute the assignment and build the park benches (or whatever) and write up the project and put it in a binder.

These are all 3 good ideas for an Eagle project. I’m sure there are other good ideas, but nothing is coming to mind right now.


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